Many older Americans start to consider a change in their community and care as they get older. Some are looking for help with everyday responsibilities. In contrast, others would like a community of people their age who are engaged in day trips, game nights, communal meals, and a healthy, active lifestyle.

If you are considering senior living for yourself or have a relative that you would like to help make the transition to a senior living community, it might be hard to know where to start. There are so many choices out there; it can be an overwhelming process to narrow down the best fit for you or a loved one. 

Below, we hope to help you find some direction by giving you a few parameters for your senior living search. The great thing is that there are so many options available. If you do your research and due diligence, you can find a place that is a great fit for you or your loved one. The more time you have to search out the best options, the more likely you will find a place that fits all of your needs.

Types of Senior Living

There are a few different categories to describe a senior living situation:

  • Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) 
  • Independent Living Communities
  • Assisted Living Communities
  • Memory Care
  • Skilled Nursing

To get more details about each of these types of senior living situations, you can read one of our previous posts about them here. We go into much more detail about each of these options. When beginning your search, one thing to consider is which of these types of situations best suits your loved one’s needs. 

5 Ways to Find the Right Assisted Living Community

Here are a few simple steps to help you pick the right community for you or your loved one’s needs.

Create Your Parameters

When you begin your search, first write down any known parameters you have. This should include the level of care you need or will need in the future. You will also need to consider the monthly costs you can cover and what type of coverage you will need for your budget. For example, you might need an assisted living community where you can have assistance with at least three activities of daily living. Another person might have the same budget but really needs help with meal preparation, social activities, and housekeeping. The most important starting point is to be realistic about your needs, resources, and what makes you or your loved one feel comfortable. Write out your parameters and make a list of the top priority questions you need to consider for a transition to a senior living community.

Prioritize Location

One of the most important factors in your decision will be where you want to be located. Some people might have a specific city or state they have always wanted to live in. Others might need to consider how close to family or friends they need to be. Many seniors want to stay within their community which can narrow down their options dramatically. Here are some questions to consider when deciding on the location:

  • What location will be convenient for friends and family to visit?
  • If you choose a community that is not in your town or your family/friend’s town, are there hotels nearby for people to visit you?
  • What is in the town of the senior living community? Consider whether there are doctors’ offices nearby, shops, a pharmacy, and other necessary businesses/parks/geography you may need.

Online and Phone Research

One of the best ways to start your specific search is to plug in your parameters online and start researching senior living communities that come up in your search. Make sure to read through online reviews and check the Better Business Bureau’s reviews.

Another great way to start building your list of options is to ask friends for recommendations. Once you have a list of several communities you would like to explore, call to speak with a representative and ask for brochures and information about their cost and services. Most importantly, ask if they are currently accepting new residents. If they are not currently accepting new residents, most have a waiting list. Many people put their names on a waiting list at several different facilities, so the wait time may be shorter than it seems. Here is a basic list of questions to consider at this stage of your search:

  • What do the reviews say about the facility? Can you find any reviews from current staff members or current community members online?
  • What are the services provided? Do they offer transitions to higher care? (Note: this might be an essential question for you or a loved one.)
  • Are they currently accepting new residents? How long is the waitlist, and can you go ahead and put your name on a waitlist?
  • What are the monthly costs? What are the additional costs? What services are covered within the monthly price? Do they have any programs that help residents afford care?
  • Can you tour the facility? How long does the tour last, and what will you see on tour?

Tour Top Communities

Once you have narrowed down your top three to five communities, plan to take a tour of the facilities. One of the best ways to help you decide is to listen to your instincts. Sometimes the newest, most beautiful facilities do not have a warm community feel, while an older facility may have a vibrant community. Again, going in person will help you determine which community you or your loved one will be able to feel most at home in.

It is always helpful to have a second pair of eyes and ears with you on a tour — bring a friend or family member with you. Talk to both staff and residents to understand their perceptions. Here are some questions to consider while you are touring facilities:

  • What is the neighborhood like? Does it seem like a safe neighborhood when you drive in?
  • Are the facilities taken care of? Does the exterior look clean? Are there plants, trees, or gardens?
  • Consider the parking options. Is there good parking for family and friends who might visit?
  • Are there safe, enclosed spaces where residents can go on walks and socialize?
  • Pay attention to all the different areas of the facility — bedrooms, food, the friendliness of the staff, common areas, and planned activities.
  • Is there a safe, enclosed area where residents can walk and socialize?
  • A great way to really get to know how the community feels is to visit again without calling ahead.

Follow-Up on Top Options

By this point, you will hopefully have narrowed your choices down to two or three options. Now is where you will get into the details of your specific situation. 

You will need to speak with each facility to understand the exact cost breakdown, including any costs not covered in your monthly fee. You will also probably do an initial assessment of your needs, followed by a care plan. Ensure you know who has developed the care plan and how often your care plan will be reassessed. Ask for information about any care offered by doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, and their costs. Here are a few other items to inquire about:

  • Find out if the facility is affiliated with other healthcare providers for emergencies or if more care is needed.
  • Ask about how medication management is handled. For example, who is responsible for this process, and what level of training do they have?
  • If there is a medical emergency, what procedures does the senior living community follow?
  • And lastly, make sure to get a copy of any contracts to review before you actually sign anything. Again, you need to make sure you read the fine print and may need help from a lawyer.

Elder Care Alliance Senior Living Communities in California

Elder Care Alliance has served seniors and their families in California for more than 20 years through five different senior living communities. From day one, our mission and vision have been centered on the care of seniors — putting their well-being and dignity at the forefront of all we do. 

We operate a network of communities that offer a range of senior living options with varying levels of service, support, and care. So whether you’re looking for a little assistance or a higher level of care, a short-term stay, or a new home, Elder Care Alliance has a community to meet your needs. We would love to give you a tour of one of our communities and answer any questions you have as you explore the best community for yourself or a loved one. If you would like to set up a tour or see us in person, please call us today at  (510) 617-5905.